Today we're going to look at some good design in travel sites, and tomorrow we'll continue the series with some that need a little help. Let's get started!
TrueGreece, as the name implies, is a site dedicated to Greek vacation packages. It does a good job of putting the user at ease with nice use of appropriate colors and photography.
Layout / Navigation
: TrueGreece's layout is simple, functional and intuitive, which is very important. The left navigation makes sense and the icons used as links beneath the main picture are subtle and unobtrusive. The phone number and addresses are present on the left of every page. Another excellent point to note is that the layout is very consistent from page to page. If a site's layout changes suddenly from one page to another, the user can get disoriented and annoyed, unable to find what they're looking for.
: The use of a relaxing blue-to-teal gradient evokes a feeling of being by the sea, which is a nice touch. The black body text is bold and easy to read, but it might be improved by lightening slightly to a dark gray. A warm orange is used to effectively draw attention to specific areas or titles, and offsets the cool tones nicely.
: One of the most engaging parts of TrueGreece's website is the use of beautiful photography, which often plays an important role in design; it can separate a good design from a truly engaging experience. This is especially crucial for a travel site - it's imperative that the viewer gets a sense of what it could be like to travel to the featured destination. The photography used here is crisp, with bright colors and nice cropping.
After a quick review, I see three issues with the site.
First of all is the left navigation. The gray behind the links is drab and doesn't fit with the rest of the site's bright look and feel. I would leave the background white. When the user is viewing one of the pages linked to in the left navigation, that page's link acquires an orange background and white text, which looks great.
Second of all, though related, is the use of drab gray backgrounds in their Travel Questionnaire form. I much prefer the cleaner style used by the Contact Us form.
The last thing I'll mention is the large expanse of white space in the lower-right quadrant of the background, as well as the upper-right area next to the top navigation. It's clear that the gradient in the background of the right side of the page is supposed to align with the main picture, but it throws off the site's balance in a big way. I'd recommend using the same gradient background from left side, minus the flower, so as to let that element maintain is uniqueness.
Travel2Greece is of course another Greek travel site. The home page gets a bit crowded due to its lack of content, but once the user enters a subpage, a nice layout is adopted. I don't know why the home page is left-aligned while the rest of the pages are centered, and that's something I'd rectify. Travel2Greece also has a lot of beautiful photography, which really helps the user visualize what taking these trips would be like.
Layout / Navigation
: The homepage aside, Travel2Greece's layout is consistent and simple. The header features a main page picture as well as preview photos for the other main pages. The right column is filled with stunning views to entice further research while the main content area is filled with information, and often additional photography.
: The colors are bright, modern and consistent. The body text color is a nice gray while the headers are lime green and links are a light, slightly unsaturated blue. To enforce the branding, even in HTML text, the site name is written in gray, very light blue and then a sky blue.
: Travel2Greece makes abundant use of a variety of photographs, all professional quality. The multitude of breathtaking scenes shown on the site offer a spectacular tour of the country and, as I already mentioned, there's nothing more helpful to a travel site for getting leads than the photography.
: My first critique is of course the randomly inconsistent homepage. It should be centered like the subpages. Another problem with the homepage is how crowded it feels. This is because the homepage consists only of the header and the footer, the latter being way too crowded for my taste. Reorganizing or reducing the content in the footer would help improve both the home page and all of the subpages. Additionally, the homepage should contain calls to action, as well as content similar in style and layout to the subpages.
I also have a problem with the sudden and harsh black dividers used to break up tables. These lines should be lightened, replaced with more subtle dividers or removed.
Lastly, the subpage headers have a style that doesn't fit with the rest of the site's design. These should be redesigned so as to make the site more uniform as a whole.
: Friendly and modern are the two prime adjectives that come to mind. It's very clean and well-organized with lots of white space and uses of gentle color for area separation. The best part, though, is the branding. The interesting shapes and colors used in the logo are repeated throughout the site to tie everything together and maintain a fun feel throughout.
: A lot of saturated, playful colors are found in the Bahamas logo. Fortunately, the user isn't bombarded with all these colors all the time. If that were the case, along with the mass amounts of content present, the user could feel quickly overwhelmed. Instead, a nice dark, saturated blue is used for headers and a dark gray is used for body content. Besides that, various other colors are primarily seen in the awesome photography throughout the site.
: Myriad fantastic photos are seen on practically all of the many, many pages that make up the Bahamas website. Again, this is what will really impress most users.
: This site is incredibly well-executed. This makes sense, as tourism is the country's primary economic activity, accounting for about two thirds of the GDP (according to Wikipedia). The website is also amazingly vast and features countless sections containing staggering amounts of information. What would I change? Well, the last word in the navigation at the top of the page (My Bahamas, Bahamas Directory, etc.) shows up on the next line in Firefox for some reason. It works fine in Internet Explorer, Safari and Chrome, though. Other than that, I've got nothing.